CB Ronde Barber played the less glamorous position in high school but still shared state honors with his twin brother Tiki
(by Ryan Basen, NFLHS.com)
Ronde Barber is seven minutes older than his twin brother, Tiki, and has one more Super Bowl ring than the New York Giants running back. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' standout cornerback has played in the Pro Bowl and has helped anchor one of the best defenses in the NFL over the last seven seasons.
Yet when pressed to name the Barbers of the NFL, most observers mention Tiki first — not Chiefs linebacker Shawn (unrelated to Tiki and Ronde) and not Ronde, who has racked up 20 interceptions and 15 sacks in his career.
Tiki Barber plays a more glamorous position for a more tradition-heavy team in a much bigger market. He's been a news anchor on television. He was the first Barber twin to play in the Super Bowl (when the Giants lost Super Bowl XXXV to the Baltimore Ravens). Ronde Barber doesn't mind. It's been like that for years — while they've played in the NFL, at the University of Virginia and even at Cave Spring High School in Roanoke, Va.
While Tiki was rushing for a few thousand yards in his high school career, Ronde played only sparingly on offense. While Tiki was getting on local television every Friday night with his highlight-reel touchdown runs, Ronde made the plays on defense that allowed Tiki and the offense to get back on the field.
Even Ronde, when asked about his favorite memories from playing high school football, replied: "My high school memories are all of Tiki tearing up people. ... He did it all."
So did Ronde. The Barbers were named co-High School Athletes of the Year by The Roanoke Times when they were juniors at Cave Spring in 1992. Both excelled for the Knights football and track teams. Ronde even won state championships in the 55- and 110-meter hurdles events and was a national champion in the indoor 55-hurdles as a senior in 1993.
The Barber twins also shined in school. A decade before they began astutely reading and analyzing NFL offense and defenses, both had excellent GPAs. When they decided to attend Virginia together — where they played football at their current positions — it capped an exciting three years in which they were the Roanoke Valley's most famous athletes, maybe its most well-known people.
The Barber twins are the sons of former Virginia Tech running back J.B. Barber, who played for the Hokies from 1971-73. They moved to Roanoke at age three, and J.B. soon separated from their mother, Geraldine.
In junior high school they established themselves as superb athletes in football, track and wrestling. By the time they arrived at Cave Spring High as sophomores, "everybody knew about us," Ronde recalled.
Ronde started out returning kicks and playing as a backup safety. But when a starting safety went down to injury in the team's second game of the season, he stepped in and never relinquished his starting role in the secondary. He and Tiki soon became stars. By November of that season he was the team's leading tackler, Tiki its leading rusher. Ronde, always one of his brother's biggest fans, benefited in another way from Tiki's success.
As Tiki became a household name at running back, "I became known as someone in the defensive backfield," Ronde said.
As juniors they were even better. In the football season Ronde picked off 11 passes in 11 games as the Knights qualified for the state playoffs. In his senior year he started on offense, too, lining up in the backfield with Tiki. With a new head coach, the Barbers got the Knights off to a 2-0 start. They combined to rush for nearly 300 yards in the opener and led a shocking win over the eventual state champions in their next game.
In that game, though, Ronde also cracked his collarbone. While he sat out four games, the Knights began to lose and they eventually missed out on the playoffs. Actually, Cave Spring never won a playoff game in three years with the Barbers. Yet Ronde is still fond of his high school days.
"I had a great three years at Cave Spring," he said. "High school was great, even though we didn't win a bunch of games."
While he didn't experience much winning until college, Ronde did pick up plenty of skills at Cave Spring. Playing high school football taught him how to compete at a high level and how to go hard on every single play (a must to succeed in the ultra-competitive NFL). He knows he was fortunate.
"It definitely carried that on to the next level," he said. "A lot of kids don't get that in high school."
In his senior year, Ronde played for head coach Steve Spangler, who had coached him previously in junior high. He appreciated Spangler's dedication and attributes Spangler and his staff with helping him get on track to the NFL.
"You could tell he loved what he was doing when he was out there" Ronde recalled. "That showed up with the players. I know it helped with me."
Every summer Ronde and Tiki Barber return to Roanoke to run a week-long youth football camp. Last year's camp had record numbers of campers; dozens had to be turned away. Even though the twins now live hundreds of miles away from the Roanoke Valley, they are still just as popular today in the area as they were when they were local high school stars.
Last June, campers had the opportunity to pose for pictures with the Barbers beforehand. Then they were divided up. Tiki took half the campers to go through offensive drills and Ronde taught the other half some defensive moves.
Most of the kids paid more attention to Tiki, preferring to carry the ball and do offensive drills. Ronde understood, as the camp must have reminded him of his old high school days.
"I was in an unspectacular position, not scoring many TDs," he recalled. "He [Tiki] did it all."